Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My First Class Went Well - I Think

I presented my first genealogy lecture/class - Eastern European Genealogy, for the California Genealogical Society at our library in Oakland on Saturday, February 11, 2017.

We had a full house, and due to a scheduling snafu (it was listed at two different times in different places), we started at 1:30 p.m. All told, I think we had just under the 30 people signed up, as we had two people from the waiting list seated.

We went a full two hours, and very few people left. I hope that means that people enjoyed it.

Only one or two people came up to me at the end. The only real comment was from someone more qualified to teach the course than I am, who thought that I should have encouraged folk to not use Google translate but to instead learn to read the original languages. I chose to try to make the field seem more accessible, which I think is probably best for most people.

I am always insecure about making presentations, and without positive feedback, I will remain nervous about it.

The experience was very helpful, and I have a much better idea of what to do to improve the class if/when I present it again.

I was hoping to start a CGS Facebook Eastern European group, but that didn't happen at the time. I will try to get something started soon - I am traveling a lot in the next few months, and I want to get this taken care of before I forget.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I'm Teaching My First Genealogy Class - Eastern European Genealogy for CGS! SOLD OUT!

As I recently mentioned, I am going to be teaching a class on Eastern European Genealogy for the California Genealogical Society on Saturday, February 11 at 1:30 p.m. (I don't know why it is listed as 1:30, since we usually start at 1:00.)

This will be my first time lecturing on genealogy - I have taught many things over the years, and I have spoken around the U.S. and in Ireland about transgender and legal issues.

The description of the class is:

Eastern European Genealogy
Eastern European genealogy presents unique challenges to the researcher because of shifting boundaries, multiple languages, multiple religions, politics and population movement. Ancestral towns frequently had multiple names simultaneously, and even locals had difficulty with consistent recordation of names and relationships. 

This class will highlight the best resources and strategies for those with ancestors primarily from regions that were formerly parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, corresponding to the modern nations of Austria, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and portions of western Russia.
I learned today that the class has sold out! We have 27 people who signed up, including five non-members who paid $30 and three members who also donated for the event. We have a waiting list.

This is exciting, and very, very nerve-wracking. I am a very comfortable speaker, and I am great at extemporaneous speaking, but preparing a full lecture with associated materials is challenging. I have been working on it for the past few weeks, but I since this is my first time presenting this material, I have to do every slide from scratch.

This is a great opportunity, and I am very much looking forward to getting this one together. I am planning on attending a week-long class on Tracing your Roots in Eastern Europe at GRIP in late June (the only reason I wouldn't go is that I am waiting on an unlikely appointment to an important state commission which would conflict with the class).

 Now, I just need to really learn Polish, and get my Cyrillic reading skills up for reading records, and...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Elected Vice President of the California Genealogical Society for 2017

This past Saturday, January 14, 2017, was the annual business meeting for the California Genealogical Society.

We started with a potluck, then some of us had a brief tour of the emergency exits for the Library.

The business meeting was quick and interesting, as we opened with a letter from a longtime member about how CGS training helped her live her genealogical dreams, reviewed the past year, heard a report about the success of our first capital campaign, and discussed the plans leading up to our 120th anniversary celebration in 2018. I will have a lot more to post about those plans in the next few months.

After the meeting, we had a short board meeting to elect officers. I was elected as Vice President, which is something that I have been discussing with our President, Linda Okazaki, for the past month or so.

This does not mean that I will be the next President. I have not made such a commitment, for a variety of reasons.

First, I have a full-time, demanding profession, and we operate a major library with NO PAID STAFF.  That means that the volunteers need to do everything, and the buck stops with the President.

Second, I am still fairly new to leadership, and I want to make better connections with people.

Finally, I want to deliver results on the projects that I am undertaking before asking others to support me as their leader.

That being said, I am not approaching the position the way that my predecessor did - she made it clear up front that she was not going to be President. Instead, I am going to keep an open mind. I would like to do it, but I am uncertain that this is the right timing for me.

In terms of projects, I am taking on the lead for strategic planning. This is a function that excites me in several organizations, but I still need to improve my own skillset and toolbox to make this work out effectively.

Also, I am presenting my first genealogy class next month, on Eastern European Genealogy. This marks a real milestone for me.  I will post more about that soon.

I am very much looking forward to genealogy in 2017, and continuing my work with CGS.

Friday, January 6, 2017

I'm still here!

It has been far too long since I posted anything in this blog, but I am not going to give up.

Neither will I make a firm commitment that I will not fulfill - it is the reason that I don't like New Year's resolutions.

I think that one of the deterrents to actually regularly posting is my perfectionism - I feel like I need to say something important in an entry. However, I think that the real value of the blog might be to discuss my experiences, including frustrations, brick walls, etc. After all, the name of the blog itself is a reference to frustration.

So I will see how this goes, But it will be easier to post if I lower the bar for myself, and make this about notes on a journey and not profound discoveries or analyses.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


As I mentioned on Wednesday, the genetic genealogy community has been in a tizzy over the exchange of notices from Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and, is a site that has tools to allow users to compare DNA results, and uploaded GEDCOM files, from users of the three major DNA testing companies,,, and FTDNA.

The commotion rose to a fervant pitch, with some threatening boycotts of FTDNA and others urging calm over what was coined "GEDMATCHAGEDDON."

This was heightened when announced that they might have to discontinue sharing matches with data submitted by FTDNA users.

This afternoon, the two organizations issued the following joint announcement:

Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch jointly announce that we are in serious conversations regarding issues that have resulted in GEDmatch discontinuing uploads of FTDNA data. Both companies recognize the importance of these talks to their customers and are committed to quickly resolve differences. We regret any inconvenience that may have been caused and assure our users that our primary focus and efforts are geared toward your benefit. 

Hopefully, this will put the whole matter to rest for a while.

Throughout this entire exchange, data uploaded from kits from the other two companies were only to be affected by the ability to compare to FTDNA users.

It is still important for all of us to remember that data privacy is an important issue to many people, and that we should respect the wishes of our family and friends who share this information with us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

FamilyTreeDNA Asks to Freeze Uploads of User Data From Their Tests

One of the best, largely free, resources available to genetic genealogists are the tools on This site allows users to upload raw data from all three major testing companies -, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. This is the only way to compare tests from the three companies.

Today, users noticed a strange notice on GEDMatch:

NOTICE: We are no longer accepting FTDNA DNA kit uploads. We have been asked not to say why. Please Contact FTDNA if you have any questions.

Well, users noticed, and they did contact FTDNA. In droves. And droves.

This isn't surprising, as the statement was mysterious and yet direct in its instruction.

Genetic genealogy online groups, message lists, etc. blew up with speculation, some of it quite fanciful.

FTDNA responded on their Facebook Page with the following message:

We have reached out to GEDMatch expressing our concern that their website could potentially lead to a breach in privacy of our customers. Given this, we proposed to discuss the subject with them, but in parallel we suggested that until further clarification and assurances that the privacy of our customers' records are protected, Family Tree DNA uploads should be suspended. We hope that with the cooperation of GEDMatch we can reestablish the uploads in the near future.

Well, that didn't sit well with many users. Dozens of folk have used one of Facebook's emoji-like statuses to express anger.  Many users feel that they have the right to upload their DNA data files wherever they darned well please, and they are frustrated that FTDNA disagrees.

Other users have noted that from GEDmatch, one can determine the test ID number for the sample, which FTDNA surprisingly uses as a username. This gives basically the easiest half of the two pieces of information needed to log into an account.  Of course, most other websites use an e-mail address as a user name, which is not exactly rocket science to locate.

It appears likely that FTDNA is concerned about litigation. I cannot comment on that, since as a judge, I cannot publicly opine about potential cases or controversies.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Roots Magic Claims Direct Family Tree Maker File Import

I haven't had a chance to test this, but Roots Magic has announced that the new version can directly import Family Tree Maker files

Here is what they say on the Roots Magic blog:

Family Tree Maker users have a new home

Direct Family Tree Maker Import is Here!

Since Ancestry’s announcement that they were parting ways with their Family Tree Maker software, thousands of FTM users have found a new home in RootsMagic. One of the first questions they have is, “How do I get my data from FTM into RootsMagic?”
Until today, the answer has always been through a GEDCOM file. But GEDCOM files from Family Tree Maker, while mostly effective, were often lacking data and details only found in the original file. Plus it added an extra step in the conversion process.
That’s why we’re excited to announce today’s release of RootsMagic 7.1. In addition to various tweaks and fixes, this update adds the ability to directly import any Family Tree Maker file.
And by “any” Family Tree Maker file, we really mean it. RootsMagic can directly import:
  • Family Tree Maker 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 for Windows (*.ftm, *.ftmb)
  • Family Tree Maker 3 for Mac (*.ftm, *.ftmb)
  • Family Tree Maker 2010 and 2012 for Mac (*.ftmm, *.ftmd)
  • Classic Family Tree Maker Files (*.ftw)
In fact, RootsMagic can import a bigger variety of Family Tree Maker files than any single version of Family Tree Maker itself.